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question of the day: O Hollywood, where art thou?

I’m so confused. First I read in The New York Times that 2010 was the year that Hollywood finally took notice of, you know, moviegoers:

As Hollywood plowed into 2010, there was plenty of clinging to the tried and true: humdrum remakes like “The Wolfman” and “The A-Team”; star vehicles like “Killers” with Ashton Kutcher and “The Tourist” with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp; and shoddy sequels like “Sex and the City 2.” All arrived at theaters with marketing thunder intended to fill multiplexes on opening weekend, no matter the quality of the film. “Sex and the City 2,” for example, had marketed “girls’ night out” premieres and bottomless stacks of merchandise like thong underwear.

But the audience pushed back. One by one, these expensive yet middle-of-the-road pictures delivered disappointing results or flat-out flopped. Meanwhile, gambles on original concepts paid off. “Inception,” a complicated thriller about dream invaders, racked up more than $825 million in global ticket sales; “The Social Network” has so far delivered $192 million, a stellar result for a highbrow drama.

As a result, studios are finally and fully conceding that moviegoers, armed with Facebook and other networking tools and concerned about escalating ticket prices, are holding them to higher standards. The product has to be good.

Cynical cinema buffs will laugh: isn’t Hollywood always blathering on about quality yet churning out dross? Perhaps. And there are always exceptions — how else to account for “Clash of the Titans,” which sold a strong $319 million at the global box office in April despite messy 3-D effects. And as “The Last Airbender” demonstrated, also with $319 million in ticket sales, there may always be room in the summer for a mindless action movie that the critics cannot stand.

Still, the message that the year sent about quality and originality is real enough that studios are tweaking their operating strategies.

Yet then I read this in the Guardian:

The new year ought to be a time for ambition, hope and renewed energy in the creative industries. So when movie moguls Harvey and Bob Weinstein recently announced details of a deal for a series of remakes, sequels and TV shows based on their film classics, the collective sigh of despair from critics was enough to make the most cynical Hollywood observer take notice.

Shakespeare in Love 2, Bad Santa 2 and Rounders 2 were all promoted as projects in the press release, despite sounding like films no cinephile could imagine being made. The touting of the entire Weinstein Company back catalogue also raises the prospect of a remake of Reservoir Dogs. Or a TV show based on the guys movie Swingers. Or even a sequel to the gritty police drama Cop Land. Few pundits pulled their punches. “This sounds bananas,” wrote Entertainment Weekly columnist Darren Franich. But not to the Weinsteins. They dismissed the criticism with a pithy comment about the state of Hollywood’s movie output. Shakespeare in Love 2 would be, the Weinsteins insisted, “… better than 90% of the films out there”.

A look at the roster of expected films for 2011 reveals that the moguls have a point. Hollywood’s dream factory, beset by spiralling marketing costs and a pinched bottom line, is retreating into the safe bets of sequels, do-overs or films based on bestsellers and theme park rides. Coming to a multiplex near you are such franchised delights as Journey to the Centre of the Earth 2, Sherlock Holmes 2, a new X-Men series, Happy Feet 2, The Hangover 2 and the eighth Harry Potter film.

*groan*

And then, when I looked back at the Times article, I learn what its idea of a fresh tack from Hollywood is:

Sony Pictures Entertainment, the studio behind “The Social Network,” is trying to bet more heavily on new directors with quirkier sensibilities. To reboot its “Spider-Man” franchise, for instance, Sony hired Marc Webb, whose only previous film was the indie comedy “(500) Days of Summer.” The studio has also entrusted a big-screen remake of “21 Jump Street” to Phil Lord and Chris Miller, a pair whose only previous film was the animated “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.”

“We think the future is about filmmakers with original voices,” said Amy Pascal, Sony’s co-chairwoman. “Original is good, and good is commercial.”

Bringing in someone new to make your umpteenth Spider-Man movie does not add up to “original” filmmaking. The average moviegoer has no idea who directed a movie anyway, unless it’s Steven Spielberg, maybe.

This, also from the Times, gives me chills… and not the good kind:

“Movie marketing can’t settle for good anymore — it has to be great,” said Dennis Rice, a consultant who has held senior positions at Miramax and Disney, noting that he was not speaking specifically about Fox.

Notice that Rice said not that movies have to be great, but that movie marketing has to be great.

O Hollywood, where art thou? In the land of delusion? Or has the new “great” movie marketing already struck, as the industry attempts to brainwash moviegoers into believing that the same old crap is “new” and “daring” and “original”?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)


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